With knowledge of the IATA Clearing House process concentrated in one single resource, the risk for the airline was high. IATA’s customized in-house training on Passenger Interline Accounting and Control provided a fast track to an efficient, flexible team.
Surinam Airways (also known as SLM) is the flag carrier of Surinam, based in Paramaribo. Founded in 1955, it operates a fleet of 2 aircraft, flying to 10 destinations. As well as passenger transport, Mireille is responsible for SLM’s stations abroad, and oversees back-office processes, including cargo, interline and clearing house.
When I started as Head of Passenger Transport at Surinam Airways in September 2019, I discovered that there was only one person on my team who knew how to process invoices through the IATA Clearing House (ICH). Life is unpredictable and, if things don’t go according to plan in a strict, rule-based process such as this, the effects can be damaging for our organization. I had already planned to reduce the pressure on that single person, and improve the flexibility of the team, with training. However, the unpredictability of life forced my hand sooner.
In a crisis situation, like the pandemic, keeping tight control of your cashflow is essential, and that means making sure you don’t pay what isn’t justified. Unfortunately, we weren’t on top of the process with a particular invoice we disputed. We missed our opportunity to reject it, some of us did not know we could protest it, and others had forgotten we could. Ultimately, we had to pay, and the financial impact was quite significant.
It had become a matter of urgency to gain the understanding and operational knowledge we needed as a team, and our Board and CEO agreed. We’d previously begun basic ticketing training with IATA, which we’d stopped due to the COVID situation, and we turned to the association once again. Our IATA regional manager helped us identify that the training that would help us most was on IATA’s Simplified Invoicing and Settlement (SIS) e-invoicing system. But I didn’t want cookie-cutter, theoretical training. I wanted it to cover all the operations that have to be carried out each period. And I wanted it to be hands-on, so we could start working in the system straight afterwards.
I was very content that IATA was able to customize the training for us. We gave them our basic requirements, specifying that it should cover passenger interline invoicing and settlement reports. The proposed training seemed a lot for two hours of training a day for two days, but it covered all our requirements.
We started with a deep dive to review our daily tasks. The instructor introduced us to options that we weren’t using, and we now appreciate that it’s not only a tool for simplifying a process, but can also help us save money if we use it the right way. Our trainer was wonderful. He was continuously enthusiastic, relaxed and funny. He was always ready to answer our questions and, if he didn’t have the answer, he would check and come back to us. He kept us motivated by asking questions and interacting, and gave us homework, so we had to think about it and come back with more questions. He didn’t watch the clock, and never seemed to refer to the slides on the screen but, when he reviewed them at the end to make sure we’d covered all the material, it was all there, so he clearly knew what he was doing.
My goal of flexibility in the team has certainly been met. There are now three additional people who have the skills we need, and after the training, they were all enthusiastic about putting it into practice.
Our original specialist is now able to go on leave without having to worry about process deadlines, and she also has the opportunity to grow into wider responsibilities, starting with leading and coaching the others. All the participants, in fact, feel this training is enabling them to grow, that they have learned something new and can better contribute to the organization.
Our revenue accounting skills have improved, as our instructor made recommendations on how to use the revenue accounting manual in combination with SIS, and gave us concrete examples that he practiced with us. The interactivity of the training was a real boon, in fact, we were able to make connections with other areas of our work, where we didn’t realize these principles were relevant.
On a personal level, the confidence I have in my team’s abilities and the improved understanding I’ve gained allow me to delegate more and focus on the bigger picture. We’ve invested in the future of our department and our organization, improving the skill level and spreading risk linked to a concentration of knowledge.
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